Hutchison preparing to bid for EE or O2 – report

Following the news earlier this week about BT’s preliminary acquisition talks with EE and O2, it has been reported Hutchison Whampoa is preparing to make an offer of its own for one of the mobile operators.

According to the report, Hutchison, which owns Three in the UK,  is planning to make a bid for either EE or O2 by the end of the year. The sources quoted in the story reckon the Hong Kong based company is seeking advice on the matter from a consultancy. Hutchison hasn’t, however, officially confirmed the reports.

On the face of it, a merger between EE and Three would make sense for Hutchison as the two operators already have a network sharing agreement in place. This would also make Hutchison the owner of the biggest mobile operator in the UK, but coming to an agreement with Orange and Deutsche Telekom, the two owners of EE, could prove difficult.

Although BT’s talks with Orange and DT, as well as with Telefónica have been confirmed, it could be more feasible for BT to acquire O2. As the UK’s number one MNO, EE is potentially a tougher nut for BT to crack as regulators might have an issue with it becoming the dominant force in mobile on top its leading position in fixed-line. With EE it would also accumulate spectrum over the maximum, and would be forced to divest some of it.

It will be interesting to see whether Hutchison will really make an offer. If BT also makes an offer, then we could be seeing a major shake-up of the UK operator landscape in the coming year or so. In theory at least, it is possible that the UK would have just three operators in the future. In a scenario where both BT and Hutchison made successful bids, Vodafone would be left quite far behind.

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